“When you’ve got no destination, any road can take you there.”
I once saw this adage hanging in a hostel somewhere in Europe. It might’ve been in Paris, could’ve been in Rome…Well, it doesn’t really matter much, does it? It’s been years since I’ve been over there, but the line has always stuck with me.
I was overseas for a semester abroad at the University of Leeds in Jolly Ol’ England. I’ll never forget my first night there: after a long bus ride from London Gatwick, I arrived at the residence I was staying at and was just barely able to be checked in by the security guard before he left for the evening (“What if you were already gone by the time I got here?” I asked. “Yuh’d be out-uh luck,” he bluntly responded, my first exposure to the Yorkshire accent I’d eventually come to somewhat decipher). Having let me into my room, he quickly left me to spend several sleepless hours (thank you, jetlag!) alone, staring at the ceiling, dwelling on how impossibly far away from home I was and restraining myself from booking the next possible flight back to Canada.
But, of course, the night ended—literally and metaphorically. The sun soon rose and I soon grew accustomed to my new surroundings. I found my way around the city, I mastered the mental math required to convert dollars into pounds and I (mostly) understood the accents. I met many wonderful people from all around the world too—people who became wonderful friends that I still talk to regularly all these years later!
Most importantly, though, the semester overseas had an intense effect on me. Before I left for England, many people told me how much the experience would “change me,” how travelling abroad would allow me to “find myself” and so on and so forth. I just rolled my eyes at these clichés. I’d seen enough shared Facebook posts to have heard all these fortune cookie philosophies already—but as I soon discovered, there’s a reason these statements are as oft-quoted as they are: there’s truth in them. In my six months abroad, I grew, I explored, I discovered and I came back different—not drastically or obnoxiously, but nonetheless changed. Something happens when you remove yourself from all that is familiar and routine, and you force yourself into a situation where you know no one, nowhere, nothing. Someone emerges: not who others expect you to be or who you think others expect you to be, but somebody a little closer to who you actually want to be, who you are deep down at the bottom of everything. Your self—or something like itis revealed to…yourself.
This process is, of course, perpetual. It’s not as though you step off the plane and suddenly you’re “true self” is fully unleashed and untarnished; that might not ever even be possible—but insight is given and info is accessed. Simply put, something can be found if you’re willing to look for it.
The stories in this issue are all about experiences like these—about exploring new countries, different places, other cultures; they’re about travel and exploration, and all the wonders to be found in this great big world of ours. But more than that, I think, what these stories are ultimately about is what can happen when you leap head-first into the unknown. This doesn’t even require leaving your home country—not at all. I mean, I was terrified when I first moved to New Brunswick from Ontario; I was only a few provinces east, yet as I slept on an air mattress in a Charlotte Street apartment with two wrestlers I feared would throw me in a headlock if I didn’t do the dishes, I felt as far away from home as I did that first night in England. In my mind, I might as well have moved to another planet. But again, as with my time in Leeds, Fredericton has ended up being great to me and I’ve been happy to call this place home.
I recently went to an open mic night at the Wilser’s Room and did something I’ve always wanted to do, but hadn’t been able to muster up the guts for: perform stand-up comedy. I signed up a week in advance and spent the next seven days dreading it. I had no idea how my set would go, and I was so angry at myself for putting my name on the list. What was I thinking? But sure enough, I got up onstage and I told some jokes anyway. I’m hardly the next Jerry Seinfeld, (“And WHAT’S THE DEAL with student newspapers…?”) but it went fine. In my paranoid vision of the night, I figured I’d be humiliatingly heckled offstage—but I wasn’t. Even if I had bombed, though, I’d still be proud. I might not be writing about it publicly, but I’d be proud because all I’d wanted to do was get up and do it—and I did it! I leapt into the unknown. I flew to England; I moved two provinces east. I’m better off for it.
And so, hopefully, as you read the stories in this issue, you’ll reflect on the things you want to do in your life—things that, perhaps, you’ve been reluctant to leap into—and you will, at last, jump into them. Maybe that means studying abroad. Maybe that means moving to a new part of the country. Maybe that simply means trying something new right here in Fredericton; it doesn’t matter where you end up—because that’s not the point. What matters is that you head somewhere new, however you choose to get there. After all: when you’ve got no destination, any road can take you there.